After a brief celebration, Colegio de San Juan de Letran standouts Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal will be parting ways as they pursue their respective basketball careers in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Cruz and Racal are fresh from steering Letran to its first title in 10 years in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. They beat San Beda College via a 2-1 win in their best-of-three championship series.
Cruz, the Finals Most Valuable Player, will be playing for the Star Hotshots while Racal is set to join the Alaska Aces in the PBA season opener Philippine Cup.
“This is the sweetest. Malaki ang maitutulong nito dahil mabu-boost nito’ yung kumpiyansa ko. Sana makatulong ako sa team [Star Hotshots],” said the 23-year-old Cruz, who also thanked Letran mentor Aldin Ayo.
“Marami kaming natutunan sa kaniya, isa na yung pagiging malapit niya kay God. Hindi rin siya marunong sumuko, mino-motivate niya kami parati,” added the 5-foot-5 guard.
Ayo, however, has a piece of advise for Cruz.
“After this, magta-trabaho na ang mga ito. Pero kay Mark, tapusin mo ang pa rin ang academics mo. Sa amin kasi sa Letran mas importante ang academics,” he said.
For starters, Letran won in Game 1 (94-90), San Beda took the Game 2 (68-61) before the Knights closed out the series via a thrilling 85-82 overtime win in Game 3.
It was Letran’s 17th title in the league and Ayo’s first as head coach of the team.
“I humbled myself to them without compromising my authority. Ang daming ginawa ng mga ito na sa loob ko kumukulo na ako. Pero parati kong sinasabi na ako ang dapat magpasensiya dahil bata ang mga ito,” Ayo narrated.
To put an icing on the cake, Letran team manager and eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao will be giving P100,000 cash incentive to each member of the team.